The Department Injustice Shouldn’t Investigate
Zimmerman, It Should Investigate The Police
by Sam Rolley
July 22, 2013
President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice, the liberal media punditry and a number of civil
rights activists appear hell-bent to continue stoking the fire of American racial tension following the
acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. But as the DOJ mulls a civil
rights case against Zimmerman, one of the Nation’s leading civil rights guardians has come forward to
ask officials to stop the race baiting and take a real initiative to improve American minorities’
President Barack Obama, who inserted himself into the case even before Zimmerman’s trial
saying that his son would look like Martin, seized upon disquiet over Zimmerman’s acquittal
Friday. The President, in more words, said that anger over the jury’s decision is justified because
racial profiling is a real problem in America.
From the President’s remarks:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another
way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think
about why, in the African American community at least,
there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think
it’s important to recognize that the African American
community is looking at this issue through a set of
experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
There are very few African American men in this
country who haven’t had the experience of being
followed when they were shopping in a
department store. That includes me. There are
very few African American men who haven’t had
the experience of walking across the street and
hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That
happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans
who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse
nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African
American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable
for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also
knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal
laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends
up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
The President went on to say that Attorney General Eric Holder is currently considering whether the
DOJ has grounds to launch a civil rights case against Zimmerman, but acknowledged that the agency
really has little right to do so as the case has properly run the local and State criminal justice course.
That acknowledgment is likely made necessary
by the fact that even the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) has portrayed the
possibility of a DOJ case against Zimmerman as
shameless race baiting.
In a letter to Holder, ACLU officials implored
the Federal government to move on from the
Zimmerman case, instead taking real steps to end
racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
We are writing to clearly state the ACLU’s
position on whether or not the Department
of Justice (DOJ) should consider bringing
federal civil rights or hate crimes charges
as a result of the state court acquittal in the
George Zimmerman case. Even though the
Supreme Court permits a federal
prosecution following a state prosecution,
the ACLU believes the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution protects someone from
being prosecuted in another court for charges arising from the same transaction. A jury
found Zimmerman not guilty, and that should be the end of the criminal case.
However, there are still actions the federal government can take to help communities like
Sanford, Florida to ensure tragedies similar to Trayvon Martin’s untimely death do not
happen again, including preventing widespread racial profiling. Although the George
Zimmerman case did not involve a law enforcement officer, many other shootings of
unarmed Black men around the country have. In 1999, 22 year old Guinea immigrant
Amadou Ahmed Diallo was fatally shot 41 times by white New York police officers. Sean
Bell was a 23-year-old African American who was shot 50 times and killed by New York
City police when leaving his bachelor party in 2003. In 2005, New Orleans police officers
shot six unarmed civilians, two of whom died, near the Danziger Bridge in the days after
Hurricane Katrina. More recently, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, an African American, was shot
in the back and killed by Oakland transit police on New Year’s morning in 2009 after
getting off the BART train. These cases are painful illustrations of the need for the
Department to prioritize issuing strengthened guidance to law enforcement on racial
profiling and excessive force.
The President is right; there is a race problem in the United States. But contrary to what many of the
Nation’s firebrand race pundits want the American public to believe, it does not involve white-on-black
hatred reminiscent of the Jim Crow South.
Instead, the problem is a government which profits in varying degrees from drug prohibition, welfare
proliferation, rampant incarceration and permits unConstitutional abuses of basic human liberties.
These policies affect all Americans, but most harshly impact the lives of the Nation’s poorest citizens.
And government will never fix the problem — the challenge is not further empowering racial
minorities in the United States, it is taking power from government.
Judge ‘Troubled’ By DOJ Position in Drone Strike Case,
Courts Can’t Enforce Constitutional Rights
July 19, 2013
A Washington federal judge today said she
was "troubled" by the U.S. Department of
Justice's position that the courts are
powerless to hear a challenge of the
government's ability to target and kill U.S.
The government argued the court should
dismiss a lawsuit brought by the families of
American citizens killed in Yemen in 2011 by
targeted missile strikes. Justice Department
lawyers argued the court was barred from
hearing a case that would require an assessment
of sensitive military and political issues far
outside its purview and ability to review.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer repeatedly expressed concern that the government's position
would essentially strip U.S. citizens abroad of their constitutional rights. Deputy Assistant Attorney
General Brian Hauck argued there was a difference between having a constitutional right—which he
said could be protected by the executive and legislative branches—and being able to make
constitutional claims in court. Collyer countered that not being able to access the courts would deprive
citizens of the ability to enforce their rights.
"I'm really troubled…that you cannot explain to me where
the end of it is," Collyer said. "That, yes, they have
constitutional rights but there is no remedy for those
The two missile strikes at issue killed suspected terrorist
Anwar Al-Aulaqi, an American citizen, along with two other
Americans, Al-Aulaqi's 16-year-old son Abdulrahman Al-
Aulaqi and Samir Khan. In a complaint filed by the elder
Al-Aulaqi's father and Khan's mother last July, they accused
the federal government of violating the Americans' Fourth
and Fifth Amendments rights.
Arguing before a standing-room only gallery, Hauck said
the legal principle known as the political question doctrine
prevented the court from taking up the case. A federal judge,
he said, didn't have the same "apparatus" as the military and
the executive and legislative branches to weigh the policy
considerations that went into missile strikes. To consider a
claim that the strikes were unconstitutional, Hauck said, the court would have to answer
"extraordinarily sensitive questions."
When Hauck said that the "constitutional structure" enabled the executive and legislative branches to
protect citizens' rights, Collyer pointed out that the structure included three branches of government.
"The problem is, how far does your argument take you?" Collyer said, adding that she found it "a little
disconcerting" that the government was arguing that there could be no court review of a decision by the
executive and Congress to target American citizens abroad.
Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights, arguing for the plaintiffs, said the question of
the whether the government violated the Americans' Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights could be
answered by the court, pointing to a legal opinion published by the Justice Department spelling out the
standards for deciding whether an attack was constitutional.
Collyer asked Kebriaei to explain how the court would evaluate some of the sensitive security
questions at issue, such as whether an imminent threat justified the strikes. Kebriaei replied that that the
court had taken up habeas petitions by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, which required the court to delve
into national security issues.
The judge asked Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, also arguing for the
plaintiffs, how the case could be brought under a 1971 Supreme Court ruling known as Bivens, which
gave individuals the right to sue a federal official for alleged constitutional violations. The government
argued that Bivens didn't apply because it would create a new category of cases that could be brought
and raise separation-of-powers concerns.
Shamsi said it was a "quintessential Bivens case" because the plaintiffs had no other remedy. Unlike
other terrorism cases cited by the government in which the courts found Bivens didn't apply, the current
case didn't involve military operations during an immediate conflict and didn't raise questions of the
Collyer did not rule from the bench and didn't say when she expected to issue a decision.
BECAUSE THERE'S A WAR ON FOR YOUR MIND